Thursday, June 09, 2005

Who's doing the concealing?

The Guardian today publishes excerpts from editorials of several newspapers throughout the world on the subject of aid to Africa. Of particularly odius note was the one from The New York Times, which was quoted as saying:
Most Americans believe that the US spends 24% of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1%.
The actual editorial went on to say:
The United States currently gives just 0.16 percent of its national income to help poor countries, despite signing a United Nations declaration three years ago in which rich countries agreed to increase their aid to 0.7 percent by 2015. Since then, Britain, France and Germany have all announced plans for how to get to 0.7 percent; America has not. The piddling amount Mr. Bush announced yesterday is not even 0.007 percent.
This is a mistaken and highly deceptive way of looking at the aid issue, particularly in terms of the US. In a relatively capitalistic and free economy such as the US, the notion of government expenditures relative to "national income" is fairly meaningless, because the government does not own or control most of the income. Individual citizens do. So it makes little sense to look at foreign aid provided only by the government, for doing so ignores the vast majority of aid provided by the US in the form of aid from churches, foundation grants, corporate charity (both in cash and goods/services...think of the big bad phramaceuitical companies that donate millions of dollars worth of medical supplies), individual donations and volunteering, not to mention the billions in personal remittances that new American citizens send back to their families in poor countries. Getting accurate figures on these is difficult, but Carole Adelman, a former USAID official, estimated that in 2000, private foreign aid amounted to over $35 billion (this compares with official government aid of $22.6 billion). And this number is almost certainly a conservative figure, as it has relied on voluntary reporting and surveys. Indeed, the Inter-American Development Bank has estimated that just personal remittances to Latin America alone amounted to over $30 billion in 2004. For more, see Bruce Bartlett's commentary from January.

The New York Times closed its editorial with the following (also included in The Guardian):
The American people have a great heart. President Bush needs to stop
concealing it.
It seems to me that The New York Times needs to stop concealing it by pretending that funds coerced from the population to be given to politcally approved causes is the only true measure - or indeed any kind of measure at all - of the generosity of a nation. And it wouldn't hurt if The Guardian stopped passing such garbage on to its British audience, too.

9 Comments:

Blogger JohninLondon said...

Excellent new blog. More power to your elbow.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable again said...

And I live for the day when the NYT/Grauniad axis of drivel leads with a story about American generosity. How about American tithing? Or payroll deductions, from every paycheck, to charities even a leftoid could love? Uncounted tens of millions of Americans do this, every week, gladly and without strings or fuss or fanfare or Geldof-grade preening.

In this broken-backed Eurodump, all you hear is (usually estuarine) whine: "They should fix it, they should. Innit?"

4:20 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

"...it wouldn't hurt if The Guardian stopped passing such garbage on to its British audience, too."

The Guardian would cease to exist if they did that. :)

11:54 AM  
Blogger Criminally Vulgar said...

Thank you. I've been wandering around shouting at whoever would listen about this very issue for the last week.

I'm tired of my country being slated by misinformed alarmists. (Such as the Guardian.)

4:02 PM  
Anonymous p sojka said...

From this side of the pond - today the original 1919 contract with which Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees was itself sold at auction - for $996,000 (www.mlb.com). The previous owner said that he is giving all of the proceeds to an organization called America's Second Harvest, which feeds 23 million Americans every year. Can't wait for this guy to be found out and chastised for not giving the loot to starving Africans instead.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Criminally Vulgar said...

Can't wait for this guy to be found out and chastised for not giving the loot to starving Africans instead.

Well, you know, Bob Geldoff and Madonna don't sponsor starving Americans... You're not actually needy without a celebrity.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your claim that "the notion of government expenditures relative to 'national income' is fairly meaningless", is quite wrong.

Calculations based on a percentage of GDP have been a standard economic measure for decades and it's used across the world.

You clearly know nothing whatsoever about economics.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

To anonymous critic:

You've missed the point. I do not say that the analysis is flawed because it is based on a percentage of GDP. I say it is flawed because it conflates government expenditures with the expenditures of the nation. As I've pointed out, since most of the national income is in the control of others apart from government, it makes no sense to speak of the nation's contributions to foreign aid while ignoring the vast majority of those contributions, which are private, not government, expenditures.

5:56 PM  
Blogger mamapajamas said...

Indeed, Anonymous... Scott is right. For instance, the amounts given to the tsunami effort lists only the amounts the governments gave to the UN operations.

It did NOT count the $3 million per day being donated at collection points in McDonalds, the $2 million per day being donated at collection points in WalMart, etc. etc. THAT money went straight to buying relief supplies and avoided the Deep Pockets at the UN.

7:27 AM  

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